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6The Confederate Secret Service

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  • kgcrider
    Feb 20, 2009
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      Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination
      of Lincoln by William A. Tidwell, James O. Hall, David Winfred Gaddy

      "The Confederacy provides a unique opportunity to study the needs of a
      modern nation for intelligence and the institutions that can be
      developed to satisfy"

      Was the assassination of Lincoln the result of a Confederate
      conspiracy? The authors (Tidwell and Gaddy are retired U.S.
      intelligence officers; Hall is a retired U.S. Department of Labor
      official) introduce sources that they say have never been consulted to
      reconstruct the covert operations of the Confederate Secret Service,
      including an elaborate plan to capture Lincoln in March 1865 that
      involved his eventual assassin John Wilkes Booth. Proposing that,
      contrary to the normative views of Civil War historians, the South was
      confident of its strength in 1864 and 1865, the authors speculate that
      the unexpected successes of Generals Grant and Sherman that forced Lee
      to surrender in April 1865 did not daunt Booth, who may have reasoned
      that "all was not lost; there were still Confederate armies in the
      field. Some dramatic action might yet save the Confederacy, and he was
      the one to do it." Acting on his own initiative, the authors advance,
      Booth shot Lincoln, then escaped via the route that would have served
      in the abduction plot. The evidence is, as the authors admit,
      circumstantial, the argument highly conjectural, the writing
      frequently infelicitous (an agent "went in to kill Vice-President
      Andrew Johnson but his courage was not sufficiently screwed up").
      Nevertheless, Civil War and military history buffs will be intrigued
      by the documentation amassed in this hefty book.

      Although many people today have assumed that Booth acted to kill
      President Lincoln, Seward and Johnson as an act independent of
      Confederate complicity, the authors of 'Retribution' document that
      Booth was well connected with the Confederate special operations unit
      and agents. The complicated Confederate special operations provided
      agents not only in Washington D.C. and Maryland but also NYC, Canada
      and other keys areas inside Union lines. After describing in detail
      the clandestine activities of the Confederates, the authors outline
      how the network of agents were implanted that were active in gaining
      and transferring information but also prepared to support Booth and
      his companions in the kidnapping of Lincoln aiding his transport
      through Maryland all the way to Ashland, Virginia and beyond.

      Unfortunately, definitive proof of the Confederate secret operations
      may not be explicitly connected to Lincoln's death, it is apparent
      that Booth was active with operatives in NYC, Canada and agents in
      eastern Maryland, the flight of his escape. When Booth determined to
      assassinate Lincoln, there is no conclusive evidence that Confederate
      authorities approved of his action; however, as the authors point out,
      the approved element of kidnapping risks death of the object of that
      kidnapping. In that sense authorities knew with the initial kidnapping
      plan, that the possibility of Lincoln being killed was a risk does
      indicate complicity in the possibility of his death. This is a very
      detailed and well documented book that demonstrates that the
      Confederate special operations were very active whether in germ
      warfare with a failed effort to contaminate NYC with yellow fever or
      to contribute to anti-war sentiment particularly in NYC or even to
      free Confederate prisoners in the Great Lakes, it is very apparent
      that Confederate agents were willing to use extraordinary measures to
      end the war. It's amazing that Lincoln was so vulnerable to being
      kidnapped or assassination and that he was virtually unafraid, leaving
      it all to fate as he often rode off alone and refused protection
      unless coerced upon him. It is ironic that perhaps an unwritten code
      not to assassinate Lincoln protected him when he was vulnerable during
      most of the war and just a reasonable complement of bodyguards in the
      end would have saved his life. While Stanton somberly stated, "Now he
      belongs to the ages," upon Lincoln's death, it appears that Lincoln
      trusted a higher authority in protecting his life or in determining
      his time. How good is this book? The author of one of the most recent
      and acclaimed books on the Lincoln assassination, "Blood on the Moon"
      frequently references "Come Retribution" calling it a great scholarly
      history on the Confederate spy and special operations network and its